The biggest question hanging over the West Region of the 2021 NCAA Tournament isn’t about seeds, matchups, or strategy. No, it’s about availability.
Kansas and Virginia joined the field of 68 on pick Sunday, winning the No. 3 and No. 4 seeds in the West, respectively. However, both teams are currently dealing with COVID-19 issues that left them out of their conference tournaments last week.
Will the Jayhawks and Cavaliers be eligible to play in this year’s tournament? Or will the NCAA have to insert replacement teams into those slots before the first round begins?
Here’s what we know about the COVID-19 situations for Kansas and Virginia with the onset of March Madness fast approaching.
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Why Kansas and Virginia Were Included in March Madness
During an interview on ESPN’s “Bracketology,” Mitch Barnhart, Kentucky athletic director and chairman of the NCAA selection committee, explained why the committee was comfortable including the Jayhawks and Cavaliers even though they had to withdraw from conference tournaments after testing positive for COVID-19. .
“The NCAA basketball staff stayed in contact with the administrations of those schools, making sure the protocols were followed that would allow them to be available to come to Indianapolis to participate,” Barnhart told ESPN’s Rece Davis. “So, with that confidence, we were able to work through the evaluation process and place them in the field.
“We are confident at this point that we are moving forward to start Thursday with the full field of 68.”
Barnhart added that the approach will be different for each team, but the NCAA staff will continue to work with Kansas and Virginia.
The deadline for the NCAA to select a replacement team is Tuesday at 6 pm ET.
The first four teams eliminated, who will be on standby to replace any team from a multi-offer conference forced to withdraw. pic.twitter.com/nHhv1IvEjQ
– March Madness TV (@MarchMadnessTV) March 14, 2021
Will Kansas play in the NCAA Tournament?
- Date of the first game: Saturday March 20
- Time: 1:15 pm ET
- Place: Farmers coliseum
- Adversary: No. 14 Eastern Washington
Kansas coach Bill Self told reporters Sunday that the Jayhawks are “in the best shape possible” and that they plan to travel to Indianapolis on Monday.
“Obviously we had a situation the day after our Oklahoma game so I guess it was Friday morning, but everyone else tested negative every day and sometimes more than once a day,” Self said. “So, we’re going to go to Indy tomorrow with a healthy group. It’s just a smaller group.”
The Jayhawks have three fewer players as of Sunday. David McCormack and Tristan Enaruna tested positive before the Big 12 Tournament, but could travel to Indianapolis later in the week. The third player to test positive for COVID-19 has not been named and is not expected to play during the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament.
“We hope (to have McCormack and Enaruna back), unless something happens,” Self said. “The only thing I found out through this, probably as much as anyone, (is) expecting the unexpected. We’ll see. I’m not privy to commenting on the details, but I’ll stick with what I’ve said all along, that We anticipate those guys joining us this week. “
Will Virginia play in the NCAA Tournament?
- Date of the first game: Saturday March 20
- Time: 7:15 pm ET
- Place: Assembly Hall
- Adversary: No. 13 Ohio
During his Sunday media availability, Virginia coach Tony Bennett said most of his team is “tracked and quarantined.” The Cavaliers plan to travel to Indianapolis on Friday with most of the team in quarantine through Thursday.
“We will continue to test daily. Our medical staff, who are outstanding, are working with the NCAA to follow all protocols,” Bennett said. “That’s why they called our name. The timing: It’s never a good time to have it, and this is not ideal. But if you are going to have it, we take it to the last day you could have a positive case.”
As in Kansas, the anonymous player from Virginia is not expected to be available during the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament. As Bennett pointed out, the timeline is far from ideal, but the Cavaliers are happy the committee has decided to keep them on the field.
“It could be a situation where you practice here and you just show up to the game and play,” Bennett said. “That, I still do not know all the details. We will go into that. It is a unique preparation, but we have the opportunity.”
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.